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  • Brass section, sustained playing - ignorant question!


    Please can some one help me out in my ignorance here. [:$]

    I wrote a long (ie 30+ seconds) sustained note for violins and then decided I wanted to have the horn section play it instead, but I'm not sure how to approach it in terms of making it realistic (real players).

    - How sustained (consistent, with no audible breath pauses) would a horn section (say 4 players) sound assuming they draw breath at different times?

    - And in the real world are parts ever even written this way ever? I mean are (same) instrument sections ever divided and then each player or sub section allocated different breathing times to make a long sus note possible (perhaps this being noted on the score)?

    - If 'staggered breathing' of a horn section is used how do people achieve it realistically with VSL? ..... obviously this is instrument and library dependent, just curious....

    Oh and I'm not saying I necessarily want a smooth unbroken sus for the horns ..... it's just I had got so used to the smooth sus of the violins and then when I switched it to horns it got me wondering about all of the above. :)

    I should also add in this small section of my piece this violin (now horn) part is playing all alone for at least the first 20 seconds so however I work the horns they will be completely exposed (which makes it even more important it is realistic).

    Excuse my ignorance!


  • Oh sure. Definitely.

    This happens a lot and you don't necessarily have to write any instructions because the different sections usually work all of this out among themselves. You get this quite a lot in the woodwinds actually.

    Another example is when writing a 3 note chord for say the violins. How do they know how to split the notes between the desks? Simple - they just work it out among themselves. Same with long notes and any breathing issues. Although I think it's fair to say even when splitting notes in the brass sections you have to be fairly realistic in terms of the time they can hold notes.

    Same with string players when they could start to complain that their arms are aching for example.

    There are not set rules and it's always dependent on how good and understanding (professional) the players are of course.

  • Hi there.

    I know that there are people on this forum who know lots more about orchestration than I but I have definitely seen a long sustained horn section with staggered breathing in at least one orchestral score that I own. Having listened to that particular piece of music I would say that you could get away with simply a sustained chord (provided it's at mezzo-piano or lower). I don't think you'll need to do anything to represent the breathing as I don't remember the effect being particularly audible... not even a noticeable drop in volume.

    Hope that helps.

  •  Thanks to you both, very useful info.

    Yes it is a pretty quiet note, I would imagine it's in the range that's easiest to keep steady and hold the longest anyway - and so also to blend if using staggered breathing.

    When writing 'normally' or for solo wind instruments etc I often blow into my fist as I play, or when listening back, to get a feel for a) what feels like the most natural dynamics and b) realistic breathing pauses. It seems to help anyway. (sort of poor man's wind controller!).

  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on